Wednesday, February 25, 2015

To keep from being polluted by the world

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Right now, it's 6am about 25 degrees in Louisville and I'm sitting in a heated live truck. When I stand outside for my live hits, I begin to shiver. 

I'm watching a homeless person struggle with a cardboard box. He lives under the stairwell of a parking garage, across the street from the police department and steps away from where I stand for my live shot. This isn't the first time I've seen him. He's got to be miserable under there, and at times, dangerously cold. I don't know what I can do to help him, and I'm afraid to approach him. 

This morning, an older woman pulled up to our truck asking for directions and money for gas. We gave her directions but I told her I didn't have cash, and I've been filled with regret ever since. What a missed opportunity to help someone out of a tough spot. 

I've spent the last two days (my weekend) in a church, reading my Bible- the chapter of Luke. The more I read about Jesus and his life here on earth, the more I realize how much we are missing the mark as Christians in America. And my actions today, turning down a woman who asked for help, shows me how wrong *I'm* getting it. 

Jesus spent his life helping the most vulnerable- the poorest, the sickest. Jesus didn't teach Christianity to be self-serving. We'd like to think we're helping others, but are we really? What are we sacrificing to help others? What are we giving up, what are we sharing? In Luke, Jesus asked a rich person to give up all his possessions to help the poor, and to "Follow me." How many of us would be able to do that? I would like to think I would, but when it comes down to it, I really just don't know.

What if we think we're being taken advantage of? That's inconsequential: 

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:30) 

In his book, "When Helping Hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor... and yourself," Brian Fikkart writes: 

"North American Christians are simply not doing enough. We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period. Yet, most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world. We attend our kids' soccer games, pursue our careers, and take beach vacations while 40 percent of the world's inhabitants struggle just to eat every day. And in our own backyards, the homeless, those residing in ghettos, and a wave of immigrants live in a world outside the economic and social mainstream of North America.  We do not necessarily need to feel guilty about our wealth. But we do need to get up every morning with a deep sense that something is terribly wrong with the world and yearn and strive to do something about it. There is simply not enough yearning and striving going on." 

Are we yearning and striving to help the poor, the needy? What happens when the needy comes to us to help? I obviously have a lot to learn. I clearly have become "polluted by the world" as we are cautioned against in James 1:27. 

But it's a worthwhile plight. It's important not to give up, even when we fail. 

Why? Because that's what we're called to do as Christians. Because that's how Jesus lived his life. Because we shouldn't allow ourselves to be polluted by the world. Because we can't take it with us. Because when we help those who are materially poor, we sometimes learn about spiritual wealth. Because when we are in the place where God calls us to be, we are filled with an immeasurable joy and a fullness that we can't find elsewhere. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Boy with No Address

He's a boy with no address, who lives in a nondescript mud hut... Just like the other ones in his village - down a long, winding gravel road-- on a street with no name.

It's a school with no walls, a school with no phone.  A school made up of four poles, a roof, and a dirt floor.

I'm 1,500 miles away.

But the boy with no address has a one in a million smile that would light up a room. He has a spirit that transcends language barriers. The boy with no address has a permanent home in the hearts of all the people he meets, and somehow, without even speaking the same language, he's convinced me to do everything I can to help him succeed.

The thing no one tells you about missions is that they are hard, frustrating, can be excruciatingly agonizing. Behind the smiling, perfect pictures is hard, unending work - countless phone calls, sleepless nights, tearful conversations.  Going on a mission trip changes most people. You don't come back the same person... Brooke Frasier sings "Now that I have seen, I am responsible" after her mission trip to Rwanda. How can you not want to do everything in your power to help when you may be someone's only hope?

But progress is hard. My Haitian friend TB reminds me, "step by step. Have patience, my sister."

I'm trying to get Vilanio enrolled in school. When I met Vilanio and his mother Madeline in December of 2013, I asked her what I could do to help. With a little prying, she shyly told me that because of Vilanio's accident (he's paralyzed from the waist down after falling from a mango tree) and the accompanying financial strain on their family, he hadn't been going to school. She said she needed help getting him enrolled in school and I promised to help.

A year later, Vilanio still isn't in school. We traveled to see him in September. It was a wild trip. We couldn't get ahold of his family, but decided to chance it and travel halfway across Haiti on a wild ride including using motos, a public bus, and a tap tap. I didn't know if we'd make it, honestly. I was nervous that we were wasting a day and a lot of resources on a wild goose chase that may not pan out. But it seemed like God was encouraging us to go. So we did. And it did pan out. As soon as we pulled down the rutty, dusty road where he lived and immediately saw Madeline standing there (what are the chances?), I was like the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes.

And I know this will work out too. But in the meantime, it's so incredibly frustrating. Each day brings it's own challenges. At first, we couldn't get in touch with the school. The number painted on the side of the school didn't work. Madeline's number was lost. Along with it, hope. But the number magically re-emerged, and along with it a renewed sense of purpose. Each (painfully slow) step brings us closer to getting Vilanio in school and a brighter future. It'll all be worth it, I know it will.  Because I know that one day the boy with no address will be a big part of mapping out a brighter future for his village and for Haiti.

"I have learned that I will not change the world, Jesus will do that. I can however, change the world for one person." Katie Davis, Kisses from Katie